The tightest race in New Hampshire lived up to expectations last night. Carol Shea-Porter eked out a victory over Frank Guinta by four points, or just fewer than 14,000 votes.
While the race was close all the way through, indications that it would be a good night for Shea-Porter rolled in early. It was the wee hours of the morning when Carol Shea-Porter thanked a dwindling crowd of night-owl supporters for handing her back the seat in the US House of Representatives that she lost two-years ago.
Shea-Porter: I am honored that the people of the first district put their trust in me, and my pledge it to work very hard for everybody, in a bipartisan manner, to go down there create jobs and start tackling some of the problems that we’re facing. But you’ve heard me say many times that we can do this, we can do this!
She said her re-election was a clear message that voters are frustrated with the current crop of representatives.
Shea-Porter: I really think that was the under-lying message, that we took this country forward, kept it from falling into depression, and the past two years have been frustrating and we’re ready to get going again.
But it didn’t always seem like it would be that way. At the beginning of the night Republican incumbent Frank Guinta had a sizable lead, which shrank quickly as results poured in. By 10:30, with 25 percent of precincts reporting Shea-Porter took the lead, by one tenth of a percent which did little to dampen the enthusiasm at the Guinta camp.
Crowd Chanting: Go, Frank, Go! Go, Frank, Go!
The race stayed tight, but there were indications that things weren’t going well. Towns that Guinta hoped to win – like Seabrook, and Wakesfield – went to Shea-Porter, and towns that he would have hoped to take by wide margins – such as Belmont or New Durham – were winning by single digits.
But folks at the Guinta camp, like GOP primary candidate Kevin Smith, held out hope.
Smith: Well, look there’s a number of outlying towns that we’re still waiting on results from, Londonderry, I think we’re still waiting on Derry as well, Merrimack is still out there. Strong GOP towns, and look this is going down to the wire, it’s gonna be close.
Congressman Guinta himself was not ready to concede by the time his camp packed up to head home.
Guinta: This race isn’t over, this race, I think is just beginning because I think we’re in for a long night!
But before calling it a night, Guinta made the point that it might have been a very different result if it weren’t for the third candidate on the ballot, Libertarian Brendan Kelly, who gathered more than 14,000 votes.
Guinta: There’s a libertarian streak in New Hampshire, that’s something we do encourage in terms of people running for office. It does present a bit of a challenge for Republicans, there’s no question about that.
It was a bitter campaign, with no love lost between the two candidates. And voters, even Guinta supporters, like Karen McCarthy, are glad to see it’s at an end.
McCarthy: It’s dirty politics, I hate it, I hate it.
Voters in the first congressional district will get a brief reprieve from campaign season… until the next two-year election cycle.